Online Courses: Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my dog certified as a Hearing Dog or Service Dog?

In the US, you do not have to. The ADA provides access rights to handlers, not dogs. There is no certification process, and any gear you buy (vests, ID cards, etc.) is not legally required. However, the huge number of owner-trained dogs has created a market for dog gear, and nowadays, if you do not follow the trend and make ID cards and get other identifying gear, you can expect access challenges.

MHHD classes are designed to teach you how to train a Hearing Dog. Our CEUs and titles do not have any legal value for public access issues.

How do I learn about my legal rights as a HD partner?

FB page Pro-Bone-O is a great resource by the nonprofit group of the same name. Check their files for all legal rights issues.

How do I learn about my legal rights as a HD partner?

FB page Pro-Bone-O is a great resource by the nonprofit group of the same name. Check their files for all legal rights issues.

How can I avoid scammers and frauds among SD trainers?

It’s almost impossible to avoid them! They are everywhere. This lucrative criminal activity is increasing. You are at most risk if you are a worried parent with a child who needs a medical alert or other SD. Therefore, the con artists concentrate on diabetic alert dogs and autism assistance dogs.

Veterans are another group frequently targeted by scam trainers. Often, really terrible dogs with little or no training are adopted from shelters and sold to Veterans as SDs.

The worst offenders often have great websites, but their victims often also set up web sites to warn other potential victims.

Check every reference and do lots of background checking. Google any site you are interested in with the word complaints added to your search, to find out what is going on. Beware of organizations who require large amounts of fundraising to get a non-returnable dog.

Many scam organizations falsely claim to be registered 501 (c) 3 non-profit charities. Do your homework!

For a price of about $30,000, you might purchase the best SD possible from a great trainer or organization, or you might receive an untrained, aggressive, unhealthy dog, or you might receive no dog at all. You might not receive promised followup training.

Pursuing legal action on dog purchases from out of your own state may require you to pursue legal action in that state. Financially this is not possible for most people, so the scams continue.
Puppies cannot be trained as SDs, but many scams promise pre-trained puppies for medical detection. Some claim the ability to detect medical issues is bred into their puppies. Nobody can possibly guarantee that a particular puppy will grow up to be a suitable SD.

What can I expect from Soundwork classes?

Soundwork classes have a specific goal – to instruct you on my methods for training soundwork, resulting in a happy and self-motivated dog, using no force. We cannot guarantee how far you will progress towards a trained hearing dog, but we can guarantee that we are providing you with top quality information and techniques that have been used successfully by hundreds of clients, interns, and both adult and child volunteers at the Hearing Dog Program. Our online class design has been tested on several hundred participants, who helped refine it for clear communication and easy learning.

What is a Hearing Dog?

Hearing Dogs are dogs that are trained to alert on specific sounds and to notify the partner about both the sound and its source. Hearing dogs are invaluable to people with hearing challenges. They allow their owners to live much more comfortable and stress free lives, knowing that their canine companion will assist them in responding to specific sounds that most people take for granted. In the US, their human team partners have the same public access rights as any other Service Dog partner.

How is Hearing Dog alerting different from some other tasks dogs can do?

Hearing Dogs must be active, joyful, and self-motivated.
All my games and training are designed to work together to produce a dog that is self-motivated to wake up or interrupt its activities, using its own initiative to alert its partner.

Fun training produces a dog that is eager to alert, for the rewards of treats, toys, and interacting with their partner. In Soundwork, we need the dog to be excited, because otherwise it is unlikely to wake up to alert to sounds. Since most dogs sleep 18 hours a day, this is very, very important!

Food treats are used heavily at first, to encourage the dog to enjoy solving problems and associating sounds with food. As the alerting itself becomes fun for the dog, the food treats are reduced. However, treats are NEVER phased out completely. Daily life events are always eroding training, so the dog needs occasional treats for its whole lifetime!

All of the many games and exercises are designed to fit together to produce the final alerts. The training all adds up to create a foundation that helps the dog alert to sounds it was not trained for, and quickly learn any other specialized alerts the owner wants to teach.

What is Soundwork?

Soundwork is the skill used by Hearing Dogs. The dog learns to contact a person physically or visually, and indicate either the sound source or the type of sound. There are several types of Soundwork alerts:

Two-Way Alerts: The dog alerts and runs back and forth to lead the person to a sound source. The sound could be a doorknock/bell, phone, timer, baby cry, or any other sound.

One-Way Alerts: For smoke alarms and alarm clocks, the dog goes to the person and alerts while remaining with the trainer. The dog stays with the person. We do not want a dog approaching the smoke alarm where there is a possible fire, or leaving before the person is fully awake.

Name Call: The dog lets a person know about someone calling their name or trying to get their attention in public situations.

Traffic Alerts: The dog alerts a person about vehicles or people coming up behind them in public situations.

“Go Get Help”: The dog is sent to alert another person to follow them back to the sender.

Dropped Item: The dog indicates anything dropped.

“Inner Lassie”: The dog learns to use its own initiative to alert when faced with any unusual situation, whether it is a sound or not. Once the dog understands this concept, it can generalize. It does not need to be trained for every possible sound or danger.

Do I need dog training experience to take Soundwork classes?

You do not need to be an experienced trainer to succeed in these courses. Our games and exercises are fun, easy and effective. They have been developed and fine-tuned over many years. They have been tested on many people, some of whom had no talent at all for dog training! Our volunteers with no dog training experience, of all ages from young children to older adults, as well as people with various disabilities, have been very successful training Hearing Dogs. However, to succeed in training your own Hearing Dog, you must have a dog with the right temperament, AND a strong commitment to following through on the training.

Professional or amateur trainers who have done agility, tricks, scent detection, nosework, or protection sports will find that soundwork builds on an essential skill they already have: the ability to motivate a dog to be over-the-top excited and eager to do an activity with a person. With Hearing Dog training, the dogs motivation, relationship with its owner, and above all its innate talent, count far more than its ability to learn rote behaviors.

How can I learn about public access, housing, and traveling with a Hearing Dog?

A great place to start is the web site and Facebook page for the non-profit group Pro-Bone-O. They have all the most current information in their files, and legal experts to help you at any time. www.askjan.org is a great site for housing issues. Check out our Resources page.

What age can a dog start Soundwork?

Soundwork is appropriate for dogs of any age, from as soon as their ears open through old age.

Why we do the Soundwork training in a positively oriented game format?

Short Answer:

Hearing Dogs must be active, joyful, and self-motivated.

Long Answer:

All my games and training are designed to work together to produce a dog that is self-motivated to wake up or interrupt its activities, using its own initiative to alert its partner.

Fun exciting training produces a dog that is eager to alert, just for the reward of interacting with the partner.

Food treats are used heavily at first, then the amount is reduced as the alerting itself becomes fun for the dog. However, treats are NEVER phased out completely. Daily life erodes our training, so the dog needs treats for its whole lifetime!

Food and toy rewards are used to encourage the dog to solve problems.

The training all adds up to more than the sum of the parts.

Here is an example, using two of our timer games:

Our games with finding a hidden timer, and games with finding YOU hidden along with the timer, are typical of our games. They are important because they teach two different things:

  1. to learn to find a sound anywhere in the home.
  2. to find you anywhere in the home.

So, when you are hiding with the timer, when the dog finds you, it gets a triple whammy of reinforcement:

  • It gets the joy of re-connecting with the “lost” owner.
  • It gets the joy of getting a treat.
  • It associates the TIMER sound with both finding the owner and treats.
  • It gets a reward from the behavior of searching: The behavior of searching for anything at all is a reward in itself for most animals (according to Panksepp’s research on the “Seeking” emotional circuit in the brain).

So, all four things reinforce each other, and the whole alerting and searching process becomes exciting for the dog.

The result: the reaction to the timer becomes even more excited and intense. The reaction to training with the owner also becomes more intense.

And in Soundwork, we need the dog to be excited, because otherwise it is unlikely to wake up to alert to sounds. Since most dogs sleep 18 hours a day, this is very, very important!

Even better, these two games also teach the dog the basic behaviors for the alert “Go Get Help”, which involves searching for people.

All of the many games and exercises are designed to fit together to produce the final alerts. The dog will have a foundation that helps it quickly learn any other specialized alerts the owner wants to teach.

What qualities does my dog need?

Your dog needs to be motivated by toys or treats. We will teach you how to use social motivation too, but the beginning training is primarily done with food treats.

Your dog needs to be curious and confident around sounds, whether soft or loud, even the smoke alarm. The dog should willingly approach or tolerate sounds even with no training. If a dog is fearful of sounds, we suggest you borrow or foster a dog with more talent to help you successfully complete class. Fear of sounds might be from lack of socialization, or from an inherited genetic problem. These dogs can be helped a little, but can never be completely cured.

Your dog might turn out to be suitable for training, or you might need to borrow or foster a dog. Soundwork classes teach YOU how to train. They cannot make an unsuitable dog into a Hearing Dog. You might learn with one dog, then adopt a more talented one later. If you are a professional trainer, we can coach you on developing a great Demo Dog to educate people about Hearing Dogs.

What skills do I need to take a Soundwork class?

If you are taking a class at Red level, you do not need any!

If you are taking a class at Blue level, you will progress faster if you have the ability to view and make simple two-minute videos.

How will I communicate with the instructor in class?

Written lectures and videos with text will be provided in class. Students can post two 3-minute videos per week to the forum or privately to the instructor. The instructor will give feedback and help in the comments.

What equipment will I need to buy for Soundwork class?

Specific Soundwork training equipment lists and links are given in each class. For the free class, Soundwork 101, you will need an electronic beeping timer or other gadget, treats, plastic yogurt container lids, Velcro or tape, and a stepstool.

My book, “Lend Me An Ear” is now back in print. It will be helpful to you, but is not required. It covers HD temperament, analyzes which breed types are suitable, and covers testing shelter dogs for HD potential. We won’t be following the training section of the book, since my new games format makes training much easier for dog and handler, and requires less help from other people. The general principles are the same.

How can I have my dog evaluated?

Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Video, phone, and Skype consultations are available from Martha. We can possibly connect you with trainers who could help you find a dog, or evaluate your own dog for suitability for the class. If you are working with a trainer, we suggest they read “Lend Me An Ear” if they are not familiar with Hearing Dog temperament and selection.

How can I sign up for a course?

Visit our Course Catalog Overview page to learn about our courses or choose a particular course from the Courses drop down menu on this website.

Visit our Purchase Courses page when you’re ready to sign up!

How do I pay?

Visit our Purchase Courses page when you’re ready to sign up! You will be securely routed through PayPal in order to make your purchase. You do NOT need a PayPal account in order to pay. You will, however, need a credit card in order to complete your transaction.

Can I take courses if I am not in the United States?

Yes. MHHD supports spreading knowledge about Hearing Dogs and all types of Service Dogs worldwide. Please let us know how we can make our courses more user-friendly for your area and situation.

What if I don’t speak or write English well?

We’ll understand! You may find that your English is better than many people born in the US. Courses are in English, and instructor videos are mostly visual, and have text added. Soundwork courses are designed for anyone, Deaf, hearing, or hearing-challenged. We do not use lecture videos unless they are captioned.

Do you have scholarships?

We are working on being able to offer scholarships. However, they are not available at this time.

Can I get a refund?

Refunds are never given. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Can I switch to a different class?

Once you have paid for a particular course, that payment cannot be “switched” or applied to a different course. You must purchase the other course separately. Refunds are not given.

How can I pick the right class at the right participation level?

Please email the instructor through the course contact link for advice before registering.

Are your courses optimized for smart phones?

We try to make this site as accessible as possible for all devices. Let us know if you have any problems.

What are the different participation levels?

We offer two enrollment levels for our courses. They differ in the amount of interaction with the course instructors and other students.

Blue Level (full participation) includes access to all lecture and video materials, and you post your questions and homework videos in the comments. You communicate with instructor and other students in each lessons comments. Training titles and CEUs may be offered at this level. Cost: $250.

Red Level (observing only) gives you access to all lecture and video materials and the ability to read all questions and answers posted in the comments. You cannot post questions or submit written or video assignments. You might prefer this level if you are already at a level where you can progress without instructor help, or for deciding whether you want to progress further in this field. Cost: $60.

Purchase a Course

If you prefer private instructor feedback on your videos, or you are a Red level student who wants more help, you can purchase:

  • Private instructor review email of a two-minute video for $40.
  • Phone consultation at $100 per hour
  • Skype consultation at $100 per hour
Services Page Purchase Private Services

How many dogs can I train and get feedback on per Blue level course?

One dog only. If you are working towards CEUs or titles, if you feel your selected course dog does not show your skill well by the end of class, contact the instructor to submit videos of other dogs you have trained during class for evaluation.

Can I upgrade from Red to Blue during the course?

Yes, the upgrade fee is $200. You will be charged the extra amount automatically when you change. You may purchase an upgrade package here. Just choose the “Upgrade from Red to Blue” purchase level.

I want to stay at Red level, but I need to ask one question!

You may purchase a private session:

  • Private instructor review email of a two-minute video for $40.
  • Phone consultation at $100 per hour
  • Skype consultation at $100 per hour
Services Page Purchase Private Services

Are courses for professionals, or owner-trainers, or amateur trainers?

All courses are for everyone, unless otherwise specified. Instructors are experienced at communicating well and teaching all levels.

What do I need to know before signing up for a course?

Red level students need to be able to view the site and course.

Blue level students may want to be able to make short videos and upload them to YouTube.

Prerequisites are listed whenever required in each course description.

For Blue level students, Soundwork 101 is the prerequisite for Soundwork 102
Red level students may take any class, at their own risk of possibly having trouble understanding.

I am experienced in this field, so could I skip the prerequisite courses?

Email your instructor for help deciding if this choice is right for you. Prior courses materials will not be explained during a course. You are of course welcome to “enroll at your own risk”! There are no refunds.

How do I make videos?

Set up a consistent place for your camera, and a comfortable place to train, where you know your camera will film the whole space that you and the dog use. Test it first, and lay down tape on the floor, so you know what will be captured.

Good light and a clean lens are all you need for most cameras. Special lighting is not needed.

Two or three minute videos are the longest you should send. Students (and the instructor) will prefer watching short videos.

You may send four videos per week.

You don’t have to edit, but you can easily learn to clip off unwanted beginnings and endings.
You can set the video on YouTube to “unlisted” and post the link to the forum. That means that your video is private and can only be seen if someone shares the link. Students may not share other students links without permission.

Hint: Does YouTube reject your video if you try to upload it from your computer? Try saving your video on your computer, then go to YouTube, click to upload the video, then select the file from your computer. YouTube will then accept it. Paste and copy the YouTube link to the comments section in the lesson.

You can learn to create your own YouTube Channel here.

When does the course happen?

24/7! Instructors usually can reply to questions within one or two days. Time zone differences worldwide may require you wait a few hours longer than some students.

How long is my course?

Most are six weeks. Some short intensive courses will be shorter. You will receive an email with a PDF of the course material, minus the comments sections.

How do I submit questions, comments, and video links?

Post your homework and questions in the comments on that lesson. The instructor will also answer within that thread. You can view all comments in any lesson, and learn from each other and the instructor.

Can I share the PDF that I receive of the course materials?

If you wish to share the materials (written or video lectures and video examples), you must contact the instructor for that class. The written materials and the accompanying videos are the intellectual property of the instructor, and you may not legally share this material without permission. However, you MAY share what you learn in class and indeed we encourage you to do so! As a courtesy you may also consider giving credit as to where you learned the information, but this is not required.

A good deal of time and preparation goes into each class, and the tuition compensates the instructors for their efforts. If you share their materials with your friends, then you are taking income away from the person who created those materials. We have worked hard to keep our fees extremely reasonable with the hope that anyone who needs the information can afford a class. Please do not undercut the system by sharing materials without permission.

Can I have a PDF of the class's materials?

At the end of your class, you will receive an email with a PDF of the course materials, minus the comments sections.

How do I save all my homework comments and instructor replies?

You will need to copy and save any parts of the comments you want to keep. You will not have access to them after your course ends after 6 weeks.

Why do I lose access to the comments when class ends?

Because we re-use the classrooms, we remove all of the forum materials when we need the classroom again.

Why take MHHD courses?

We want to increase the appreciation for the talents and potential of dogs, worldwide! We also want to increase the appreciation for the talents and potential of all people, whether disabled or not. Our courses are designed for clear communication of the skills needed for all aspects of the Service Dog field. Our instructors are dedicated professionals with interest and appreciation of both dogs and people. All have experience of working with various disabilities, and are eager to expand their knowledge with your help.

Who are the instructors and what are their credentials?

We’ll be expanding to other instructors beyond Martha soon. All instructor biographies and credentials will be on a bio page that will be created once we add more instructors. For now, you can read the About Martha page.

Are Continuing Education Units (CEU's) available?

Blue level students may apply for any CEU’s from the organization(s) listed within your course. Some courses will have CEUs available, some will not.

Do you offer any certifications?

Students can receive a title of HDST (Hearing Dog Soundwork Trainer) upon completion of the ten HD-related courses. HDST titles require the instructor to assess that the student submitted the required homework and showed mastery of the materials for each course. We are developing titles for other SD courses, and also for our upcoming courses on developing and running a SD-type program.

How are courses graded?

Courses are graded pass/fail.